Tom Chapin

February 04, 1998|By KATE COLEMAN

Tom Chapin

Tom Chapin's 3 p.m. performance at Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater Saturday, Feb. 7, is billed as a children's concert, but don't let that fool you.

Sure, his 1996 recording, "Around the World and Back Again," received a Grammy nomination for Best Album for Children.

Sure, he's received a slew of awards for his "children's recordings."

But Chapin's kids' stuff is not just for kids. It's clever and catchy with wordplay that doesn't talk down to children. The whole family can enjoy this music.

"Around the World and Back Again" - "Atwaba" - is the title song of a collection of rhythms, words, foods and ideas from all over the globe. Kids can learn to say "yes" indifferent languages and become acquainted with a United Nations of dances. Horizons are broadened as Chapin joyfully points out things we have in common.


Chapin began writing music for kids when his own daughters, Abigail, now 18, and Lily, now 16, were 8 and 6 years old and had outgrown Raffi and were not yet into listening to the radio.

Chapin says family always has been a strong center to his life. "My best friends were my brothers."

Music connects Chapin's family. His father is the jazz drummer mentioned in the song "Music Made By Hand," a joyous defense of the musician's trade Chapin co-wrote with Si Kahn:

"My Dad had the most fun

Working with his hands.

And here I am, my father's son,

Playing in the band."

The five years of clarinet lessons Chapin began at age 7 and hated were paid for by his paternal grandmother, Abigail Chapin, a 1904 Vassar College graduate who wanted Tom and his brothers to know the language of music.

Hearing The Weavers when he was 12 years old introduced Chapin to folk music, and three of the four siblings - Tom, Harry and Steve - became the folk-singing Chapin Brothers.

The 52-year-old artist has talents that stretch beyond folk music and the concert stage.

From 1971 to 1976, Chapin hosted an Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning ABC-TV children's show "Make a Wish."

In 1983, Chapin played a leading role in a Tony-nominated Broadway show, "Pump Boys and Dinettes." He says it was a good performing experience for him to go on stage singing somebody else's music eight times a week and make it new each time. It was the first time people stopped calling him "Harry's brother," Chapin says. Harry Chapin died in a car crash in 1981.

Chapin's more recent TV credits include a stint as host of National Geographic's "Explorer" series, and he's done storybooks and tapes for Smithsonian's Wild Heritage, a book/cassette package of environmental songs titled "Sing A Whale Song" and a series of children's books that benefit the Humane Society of the United States.

Chapin says he feels blessed to be able to make a living doing what he loves to do. He will release his seventh family album, "In My Hometown" in late spring or early June, and family concerts make up about two-thirds of his three of four weekends a month on the road.

All this talk about family concerts is not meant to diminish Chapin's appeal to an audience of grownups. A versatile and successful performer before and in between the kids' stuff, Chapin has a rich and varied repertoire of material for adults. His latest recording, "Doing Our Job" with John McCutcheon was released last October.

Tenor, bass player and frequent composing collaborator Michael Mark will be at Kepler with Chapin in the afternoon and for the Saturday evening concert at 8.

If you go, request a couple of brother Harry's classics, a Mark and Chapin ode to the Chesapeake Bay and that song Tom Chapin wrote about his dad. It might help you understand him, too.

Check out Chapin's Web site at (

Chapin tickets

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